Is "Sick Building Syndrome"?
the early 1970s sick building syndrome (SBS) was
coined to describe unexplained illness among occupants
of certain new office buildings. Occupants complained of inflamed
mucous membranes, respiratory problems, fatigue, headaches, and
neurocognitive changes. Basically, when they went to work in these
newly constructed office buildings their noses began to run, their
throats got sore, they felt tired, headachy, had difficulty breathing,
and sometimes even lost concentration and attentiveness. However,
whenever they left the building their symptoms started improving.
Something in the building was making these people feel sick.
This illness came to be called building related illness (BRI).
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) as the name implies
refers to the quality of the air inside a building. In the early
days Indoor Environmental Professionals mostly concentrated their
efforts on chemical emissions or Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
emissions from paints, adhesives, carpeting and other flooring materials,
and other assorted building materials. However, even when these
items were addressed or their offgassing of VOC emissions
had subsided, the BRI remained. It was obvious that something else
was factoring in to cause Sick Building Syndrome.
American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has concluded this
about the relationship between BRI/SBS and moisture and mold contamination:
biological contaminants have been given little attention until
relatively recently, substantial proportion of building-related
illness (BRI) and sick building syndrome (SBS)
is the result
of exposure to such contaminants... There is abundant evidence
from investigations in several countries that symptoms of eye,
nose, and throat irritation as well as cough and tiredness and
fatigue are present in excess among persons or populations in
certain buildings. Although several agents have been suggested
as causative, the most extensive evidence is found for dampness
- AIHA 1996 Field Guide for the Determination
of Biological Contaminants in Environmental Samples
flooding resulting in
extensive mold growth
what does this all mean? If you have moisture in your building/home
you have reason for serious concern. Basically, moisture is vital
to the growth of mold.
must be continually present for a mold colony to grow. Dampness,
which is noted only by minor moisture/condensate, is adequate
for some mold, including species of Aspergillus and Penicillium,
molds that are thought to be a problem to the health of some building
occupants. University of Connecticut
Health Center (September 30, 2004)
you have/had a roof leak, pipe leaking, flooding, HVAC troubles
or otherwise high indoor humidity (above 50%) you have conditions,
which can promote mold growth. These sources of moisture must be
found and fixed. The materials they have affected must be moisture
measured, inspected, and if moldy, remediated.
IS THAT SMELL?
mildewy, moldy, funky
there are many words to
describe it, but it all means the same thing, you have mold. These
are technically called MVOC-s (microbial volatile organic compounds).
Its the odor given off by active mold growth. We say growth
because you are actually smel-ling the gas given off
by microbial digestion. Yes, we all do it and mold is no different.
Some will try to say that these secondary metabolites are toxic
to humans. However, this has not been proven.
notion that indoor mold growth can lead to significant toxicity
in occupants of moldy buildings has been very controversial
in the scientific literature and likely will remain so for the
foreseeable future. - University of Connecticut
Health Center (September 30, 2004)
we do know is that too much of anything is not good. If you smell
mold it means it is there and it is growing, and it should be taken
I CALL A PROFESSIONAL?
mold is obvious and easy to clean. For example, mold growing on
the surface of your shower area. This can be easily and safely cleaned
as part of your normal housekeeping. However:
some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible
that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the back
of dry wall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles,
the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Possible locations of
hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with
leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation
forms), condensate pans inside air handling units, porous thermal
or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling
tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation). Some building
materials such as dry wall with vinyl wallpaper over it or wood
paneling, may act as vapor barriers, trapping moisture underneath
their surfaces and thereby providing a moist environment where
mold can grow. You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells
moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has
been water damage and building occupants are reporting health
problems. Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult
and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing
potential sites of mold growth make sure to use PPE. For
example, removal of wallpaper can lead to massive release of spores
from mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe
that you may have a hidden mold problem, you may want to consider
hiring an experienced professional.
Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency) 3/2001
what defines an experienced professional.? Fortunately,
the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Inspection (IICRC), in
the only mold standard yet published, has defined this
person as an Indoor Environmental Professional (or IEP):
individual that is qualified by knowledge, skill, education, training
and /or experience to perform an assessment of the fungal ecology
of property, systems and contents at a job site, create a sampling
strategy, sample the indoor environ-ment, interpret laboratory
data and determine Condition 1, 2 and 3 status for the purpose
of establishing a scope of work and verifying the return of the
fungal ecology to a Condition 1 status.
IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold
IICRC further advises how this Indoor Environmental Profes-sional
is to be used:
a preliminary determination indicates that mold contamination
(as defined in S520) exists or is likely to exist, it is highly
recommended that an assessment (as defined in S520) be performed
prior to starting remediation. It is highly recommended that an
independent IEP with no business affiliation to the remediator
be used for this purpose.
is important that you have an unbiased and knowledgeable person(s)
assessing the condition of your home/building. Mold must be handled
carefully and under a very specific protocol of procedures and engineering
controls to protect the health of occupants and prevent the spread
of contamination to previously unaffected areas.
Oasis Indoor Environmental we are dedicated to serving you as the
occupant of the home/building. We are mold and moisture specialists.
We are Indoor Environmental Professionals. We understand mold, how
it grows, how it gets into the air, and how to clean it up.
will use occupant interviews, visual/olfactory inspection, moisture
readings (ambient and building materials), and site-specific sampling
strategies to assess if and to what extent mold, allergens, or other
environmental stressors are compromising your environment. We perform
a comprehensive assessment, assume nothing, and personally care
about you and your health. In the end you will receive a report
explaining not only results of our assessment and interpretation
of any applicable lab evidence, but also a written protocol outlining
how to mitigate or remediate the problem. We will work with your
mold remediation contractor to monitor the job and provide the 3rd
party clearance that it was done right and to completion. Most of
all, we are there for you. If you have any questions or concerns
we are happy to talk with you. If you need us to explain your buildings
condition to other concerned parties we are qualified and happy
to do so.
that this article has helped answer some of your questions and provided
you some direction in how to handle your indoor environmental quality
issues. Please call us with any questions you may have. We look
forward to serving you and serving to improve the health of your
Spencer Hampy CIE, CMC
- President Oasis Indoor Environmental Inc.